Posts Tagged ‘car industry’

Tories reap the credit for Labour’s automotive success

17/06/2011, 03:30:09 PM

by Ian Lucas

Two pieces of excellent news for the UK automotive industry last week.

First, Nissan announced a £192 million investment to bring the Quashquai to the UK – building on the excellent relationship the British government has built up with the company over the years.

Second, BMW/Mini announced a £500 million investment, bringing its new mini to the UK – and David Cameron was keen to do the photo-op of the mini in Downing Street. Much better, David, is to visit the stunning Cowley plant. Here I was privileged to drive number 1.5 million of the mini production line away from the factory.

What is significant is that these two inward investors have kept faith with the UK automotive industry, and that that investment will now contribute to bringing down our budget deficit.

I believe a big part of the reason for that new investment was Labour’s support when the post 2008 whirlwind hit the industry.

Labour’s 2009 car scrappage scheme was one of the most successful interventions in industry in recent history. Initially using £300 million of public money, it fuelled demand when the car industry was flat on its back. Companies like Nissan and BMW/Mini pressed hard for the introduction of the scheme and the Labour government responded.

It was a massive success – devised quickly and administered smoothly, it preserved jobs in British manufacturing as well as in the important car retail sector. One of my first jobs on becoming automotive minister in June 2009 was to badger Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson to extend the scheme – pretty frightening when facing the worst world financial crisis since the 1930s.

It was quite a day when, at the 2009 Labour party conference, Peter announced the extension of the scheme.

And this support, along with Labour’s automotive council and the excellent UK collaboration between employers and unions, is the reason why we are so well-placed to compete today.

Part of the reason we have a budget deficit today is because of Labour’s investment in policies like the car scrappage scheme when we were in power.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats did not oppose the car scrappage scheme in opposition. The present government is better placed to reduce the deficit on the back of that investment made in 2009. It is only a shame that it was David Cameron at the wheel of the mini, reaping the political benefit, outside No. 10 last week.

Ian Lucas is Labour MP for Wrexham and a shadow business minster.

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